Ray Davies's first solo album and first new studio album since the Kinks' Phobia from 1993 might seem like cause for celebration, especially if you're a young Kinks konvert who hasn't bothered to check out the albums that followed Muswell Hillbillies. Sadly it doesn't take long for Other People's Lives to reveal the reason he didn't release this album a decade ago was that nobody cared and he didn't bother. The music is competent but faceless; his ace pick-up band adds only late-night talk-show gaudiness to the Davies template. Even "The Tourist," which apes a "Rosie, Won't You Please Come Home" groove for its verse, repeatedly climaxes with gratuitous organ swells into workmanlike arena pomp. Davies could survive this commonplace backdrop if he had a new story to tell or insight to share, but his take on life and love is depressingly unremarkable for a guy who offered so much wit and memorable music in his youth. He's not doing himself any favors by referencing "sunny afternoons" either.
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His insularity hasn't given him any wisdom, but that's a criticism that was hurled at him well before Phobia. Ironically the title track and "Stand Up Comic," an atypically jazzy monologue, are such crotchety putdowns of the crass media vultures outside his door that one wishes he was too self-obsessed to bother. Compared to the indie rockers he has influenced like ex-Guided by Voices band leader Rob Pollard, who recently released his own postband solo debut Ray is honest about his issues and reliably professional. But the only people who need to buy Other Peoples' Lives are the fans who don't need to be told.